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Fuel hedging helps Southwest post a profit

(AP) DALLAS - Southwest Airlines (LUV) says it made $98 million in the first quarter, helped by one-time gains on fuel-hedging contracts.

Excluding those, the airline would have lost $18 million - less than analysts had expected.

Revenue rose 29 percent to $3.99 billion, reflecting Southwest's bigger size since it bought AirTran Airways last year.

But Southwest spent $472 million more on fuel than it did in the same quarter last year. That was partly due to the bigger fleet now that it owns AirTran, but also to higher jet fuel prices.

Thanks to fare increases over the past year, Southwest reported a 5 percent increase in revenue for every mile flown by passengers, a closely watched statistic in the airline business.

Dallas-based Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline company, had one-time gains and losses that mostly related to fuel-hedging, which is similar to insurance against spikes in jet fuel prices.

Without those, it lost 2 cents per share. Analysts predicted a loss of 5 cents per share, according to a survey by research firm FactSet.